Whether you've secured an internship for the summer or are in the midst of your search, it's smart to start thinking about how to get the most out of your time as an intern. To help you slide into a full-time position, or squeeze the most value from your three month stint, here are five good habits of high performing interns.
1. Gain perspective through one-on-ones.
A good way to start off your internship is to schedule one-on-one coffees with everyone on your team/others in the agency in the first couple weeks (being mindful of busy schedules, of course). Ask about their career paths, the dynamics of the team, the best parts and challenges of working there. Not only does it give you time to get to know people individually, but gathering multiple perspectives also helps paint a larger picture of the team/agency, which is immensely helpful context to have as you figure out your place within it. Resist the urge to just stick with your fellow interns, and you'll integrate more quickly into the agency.
2. Take notes at every meeting.
This sounds like an obvious one, but there's a good reason everyone tells you to bring a notebook and pen to take notes in meetings. Not only does it keep you engaged and listening, but it gives you an active role in meetings from Day 1. You don't have to transcribe what's said word for word, and your participation shouldn't end with your notes—see #5—but this basic habit is something you'll continue to use as you level up. This is especially important when you're being assigned a project, or someone asks you to summarize what happened in the meeting.
Side note on meetings—leave your phone out of reach. You won't realize how used to passively checking it you are, and a quick Like-fest on Instagram under the table is tempting to do. It sends a bad signal that your attention is elsewhere, especially when someone's speaking. Remove the distraction and focus—your DMs can wait.
3. Think one step ahead
The best interns not only think about the specific task they've been given, but how that task fits into what everyone else is doing on the project (if you don't know, don't be afraid to ask!). This allows you to think one step ahead and anticipate the needs of the team. Proactively summarize the takeaways from a meeting (using those amazing notes you took), and suggest your own next steps to your manager (instead of waiting to be told what to do). You'll take some of the cognitive load off your manager and help move things forward, which is always appreciated.
If your workload is light, identify things that could be made better around the agency. Alphabetize the reference library, create a template for a commonly-used deliverable, build a repository of stats about Millennials and mobile usage. Think about small things you can do to add value to the agency that go a long way.
4. Get a read on how you're doing.
If there isn't one already in place, establish a review schedule with your manager at the start of your internship. Setting up time to get and give feedback is so important for understanding how you're doing, what you need to work on, and the expectations you need to meet to get hired full-time. It's also your chance to give input on what you've enjoyed, what you're struggling with, and how your manager/team can best support your growth. Be honest and open about where you can improve—that kind of self-awareness is a quality people look for. And remember—your manager isn't the only person who can provide feedback. If you're working with other departments, perspective from someone outside your team can be equally valuable.
5. Trust your instincts and vocalize your thoughts.
You made it through the gauntlet of resumés and interviews to land your internship. Trust that the agency sees something in you, and brought you on because they value your thoughts and ideas. Use this belief to overcome the very natural fear of speaking up in meetings. If you're stuck on something or completely overloaded, say something. You won't get dinged, and it's way worse to sit and spin in silence.
No doubt you're ready for the security of a full-time gig, but embrace your time as an intern along the way. It's sort of wonderful when you realize your sole job is to learn, adjust, and establish good habits that'll benefit you the rest of your career.
Go get 'em,